Tiropitakia, “little cheese pies” in Greek, are feta-filled, phyllo-wrapped bundles. They come in a variety of shapes, and are often formed into triangles. The Greek-speaking Romaniote Jewish community from the Eastern Mediterranean is known for preparing a range of phyllo and cheese-stuffed pastries for holidays and Shabbat. Thankfully, their recipes have been documented in the “Cookbook of the Jews of Greece” by Nicholas Savroulakis, a cookbook that I return to time and time again.
On one reading, it occurred to me that this type of pastry could be ideal for Purim. When they’re formed into triangles, they resemble Haman’s triangular hat (or, according to Israelis, his ears) in the same manner as hamantaschen. These feta phyllo bundles benefit from the addition of sweet floral honey, a satisfying contrast to the savory, tangy feta filling, nutty sesame topping and buttery, crackly exterior.
This is a great recipe to make for a crowd as you can prepare the pastries in advance. Simply freeze the prepared triangles in a single layer if you’re making them ahead, and bake them straight from the freezer when you’re ready.
- 8 oz (225 g) feta
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt or labneh
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted or substitute with non-dairy butter or oil
- 8 oz phyllo, about 18 9×14-inch sheets
- ¼ cup sesame seeds, or as needed
- ⅓ cup honey
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- In a bowl, combine the feta, egg, yogurt and 1 Tbsp of chopped mint. Set aside your filling.
- In a small pot on the stove, or in the microwave, melt the butter.
- Unwrap your phyllo. If using large 18”x14” sheets, cut them in half so each sheet is 9”x14.” Take one sheet of phyllo, and orient it vertically, like a sheet of paper onto a clean surface. Working quickly, brush the top of the sheet with the melted butter. As you form the pastries, keep your stack of phyllo covered with a lightly damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out.
- Place 1 Tbsp of the feta filling into the bottom center of the sheet, horizontally, leaving about ½ an inch from the bottom. Fold the right side a third over the filling, then fold the opposite left side over the filling, and the phyllo will now be a long strip about 3” wide and 14” long.
- Fold the bottom corner up and over the mixture, forming a triangle and encasing the filling. Continue to fold the triangle upon itself, from side to side, until you’ve used the entire sheet of phyllo. Place the triangle onto the parchment paper and continue the process with the rest of the filling and phyllo.
- Brush all of the formed triangles with melted butter, and sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. (Freeze at this point, if desired.)
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until deep golden brown (frozen triangles may take slightly longer to bake). While the triangles are baking, heat up the honey in a small saucepan.
- Once baked, drizzle the honey over the triangles, and serve warm. If making ahead, wait to drizzle on the honey just before serving.